March 23, 2016

The World T20 ultimate champions prospects guide

Who's going to win? Not Bangladesh, not England, not Australia, not Afghanistan, not India...

Can you win if you don't have any players to play for you? © Associated Press

The Official Confectionery Stall Slightly-Over-Halfway-Through-the-Tournament 2016 World T20 Ultimate Champions Prospects Guide

Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite an impressive campaign in the This-Is-All-You're-Getting Minnows-Temporarily-Admitted phase of the tournament, followed by two creditable performances in the Super 10 stage, Afghanistan have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

They have raised hopes that they could shock one of cricket's established powers. Unfortunately, to win the tournament, they will now have to shock four established powers in a row. Should they achieve this, it would be the greatest story in the history of cricket, and, therefore, by definition, the greatest story in the history of the universe.

It will not happen. But if one thing has proved that cricket is absolutely right to cull its emerging nations by reducing both of its global tournaments to only ten teams, as well as further reducing their prospects of improvement and advancement by cutting the World T20 from a two-year to a four-year cycle, then the performances of Afghanistan have emphatically not been that one thing. Admittedly, that one thing only exists in the form of a questionable spreadsheet somewhere in a filing cabinet in Dubai, but still, Afghanistan are the latest team to prove that cricket should not be a closed shop. Just as the shopkeeper is winding down the blinds and flipping over the "closed" sign in his window.

Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite good recent form and the throwback sepia-tinted wiles of Mustafizur Rahman, Bangladesh have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Bangladesh are nearly a good side. Nearly-good sides can do quite well in World T20s. They can even win them, with a timely surge and a few blobs of luck. Not, however, after losing their first two matches in a five-team group. If this was a 162-game tournament, like the Major League Baseball regular season, a 0-2 record after two matches would not be considered a particularly relevant failure. But T20 has yet to embrace its 162-game destiny. This is a four-game tournament. And a 0-2 record, with their best batsmen ill and two bowlers absent through cack-handedly-timed suspensions, is, at best, a significant logistical inconvenience.

South Africa
Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite leading the Super 10 stats after two matches in runs scored, batting average, batting strike rate, sixes hit, fours hit and fifties scored (four half-centuries, all by different players, while no other team has scored more than two), South Africa have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

The unqualified Associates from the re-qualifier are likelier to win the World T20 than defending champions Sri Lanka © AFP

Having become the first team to lose a T20 international despite three batsmen scoring half-centuries (and only the fifth to do so in any T20 match), the Proteas have major question marks hanging over their bowling attack. Preceding those question marks, in enormous flashing neon lettering, are the words: "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS".

Their batting has proved that South Africa can win against anybody. Their bowling has suggested that they might even struggle to defend a newborn lamb in a court case in which it stands accused of assassinating Abraham Lincoln.

Sri Lanka
Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite being reigning champions and boasting the best win-loss ratio of any team in the history of the World T20, Sri Lanka have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Their loss to West Indies was as close to How to Lose a T20 Match perfection as any top-eight side is likely to come in this tournament. Batting, bowling and fielding look to be Achilles heels for these Sri Lankans, and even Achilles, a proven world-class performer at the peak of his game, was knocked out of the Trojan War Masters tournament by his one Achilles heel. Sri Lanka will need to improve dramatically, or go back in time, to retain their trophy. The latter currently looks more likely.

Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite an enviable array of pace, and the still intermittently active T20-volcano that is Shahid Afridi, Pakistan have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Already dependent on others' failures after two defeats in their first three games, Pakistan's batting, in particular, looks short of tournament-winning quality on paper. Especially when that paper has the scorecards from their defeats to India and New Zealand printed on it.

Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite a devastating batting line-up that goes deeper than a Barry White impersonator on the Titanic, and the startling all-format brilliance and reliability of Root, England have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

In their first two games, they shipped runs at 10.79 per over - a lack-of-economy-rate out-profligated in World T20 tournaments only by Kenya in 2007 (12.07 in two matches) and Scotland in 2009 (11.57, also in two games). Fortunately they scored as many runs in their 19.4-over chase against South Africa as they did in 241.5 overs at last year's 50-over World Cup.

Kane Williamson and Mike Hesson seem blissfully unaware of the fact that the World T20 has never rewarded consistency and efficiency © IDI/Getty Images

Obviously that is a complete lie, but it is a complete lie that is slightly more true than it ought to be. They have also already hit as many sixes - 18 - in two innings this tournament as they did in six games in that harrowingly awful 2015 World Cup. That is not a lie.

However, T20 captains in the field need to be able to rely on bowlers who are "bankers". So far, England's bowlers have been "bankers" in a very 21st-century sense - they have proved to be disastrously expensive.

Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite the echoes of last year's World Cup triumph still ringing in their baggy-green ears, and a skilled and varied batting line-up, Australia have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Oddly fallible in both of their first two matches, Australia lack the thwacking depth of other leading teams, and with the ball they appear to be missing the absent Starc, Johnson, Warne, McGrath, Lillee, Davidson, Benaud, O'Reilly, Grimmett and Spofforth even more than people expected. In a tournament in which they have seldom flourished, it is unlikely that their vulnerabilities will not resurface at least once more.

Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite home advantage, Virat Kohli, an absolute Himalaya of T20 experience, and the confidence gained by not losing to Pakistan, India have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Scoring at 88 runs per 100 balls will not win you a World T20. Admittedly this is a meaningless statistic gleaned from two matches in which the scoring rates were dictated by match situation and ropey surfaces, but India may have curated their own batting line-up out of form. After seeing India play the turning ball against New Zealand as if they were trying to play a Mozart violin sonata on a watermelon, opponents will sense vulnerability in the pre-tournament favourites.

West Indies
Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite looking potent and focused thus far in their favourite format, West Indies have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Key batsman Chris Gayle, after a satellite-threatening century against England, has not scored a single run in any of the West Indies subsequent one matches. The 2012 champions are yet to have their batting depth tested, and Darren Sammy's men surely have one disastrous subsidence up their collective sleeves, if the evidence of previous tournaments is anything to go by (even the tournament that they ended up winning).

New Zealand
Likelihood of victory: 0%

Despite defending two moderate totals and one decent total with tweak-based assurance, New Zealand have absolutely no chance of winning the tournament.

Three wins in a row have put paid to the Kiwis' hopes of breaking their major tournament duck. No team has won this trophy after beginning with a hat-trick of victories, so the statistics suggest that the unexpected inescapability of the Santner-Sodhi spiderweb of spintanglement, the Guptillian power of Guptill, and the ice-cool hands of Williamson on the molten tiller that T20 captains must grasp, will amount to nothing. This intriguingly/irritatingly capricious format (delete according to preference) is only ever a few minutes of fallibility away from Jenga-ing the strongest-looking tower.

The Confectionery Stall will be away on holiday for a while. We are confident that, by the time it returns, this article will have proved to be at least 90% correct.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer